Coloradans are typically a pretty laidback bunch. But if you want to spark up a spirited debate, ask one where to find the best green chile.
It’s a hotly contested question, for more than one reason.
First off, there’s the spelling: chile or chili? Can the two be used interchangeably, or is there a difference? Popular consensus is that chile with an “e” refers to a sauce made from chile peppers (we’ll delve into to what kind of chile peppers in just a moment), while chili with an “i” refers to the meaty red soup usually cooked with beef, red chili peppers, onion and spices. That said, you’ll see it spelled both ways — sometimes even on the same menu!
Next up: New Mexico or Colorado green chile? This is where people really get fired up.
New Mexico green chile is made with Hatch chiles — which are grown in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico — along with pork or chicken stock, onion, garlic, black pepper, oregano and cumin. It’s generally a thin green sauce with a rich, smoky flavor.
Meanwhile, Colorado green chile is made with Pueblo chiles from Pueblo, Colo. Pueblo chiles tend to be hotter than Hatch chiles, but the recipe itself also makes a big difference. Colorado green chile usually includes pork and tomatoes, giving it a thicker consistency and a reddish-orange hue.
Predictably, there’s a deep divide along state lines as to which green chile is best. Living in The Mile High City, we’re partial to the Colorado style. But, honestly, we’re happy to slurp up this spicy elixir no matter how it’s served up!
10 Places to Try Green Chile in Denver
This upscale Mexican restaurant in the heart of downtown Denver has been using Grandma Mendoza’s pork green chili recipe for decades. It’s mild, green and smooth, making it a great beginner green chili. Try it on its own or atop mini chile rellenos, chicken flautas or enchiladas.
The spicy Pueblo-style pork green chili at this beloved burger joint (now with two locations: the original in Cherry Creek and the new Ballpark restaurant downtown) is one for the books. We recommend ordering it on their classic 1/2-pound Cricket burger, along with melted white cheddar cheese.
The menu at Sam’s No. 3 is enormous, but one choice is easy: whatever you order, ask for it smothered in their famous green chili. They go through 60 gallons of the stuff every day, and they’ve been open for more than 90 years, so you do the math. Early birds can get their green chili fix on omelets and skillets, while the lunch crowd can order it atop a burger or the giant platter of Macho Nachos. The Tex-Mex Chili is another favorite: half red beef chili and half pork green chili.
Winner of Westword’s award for best green chile in 2018, D’Corazon’s entry is a true Colorado classic: thick, orange and medium-spicy. You can get pretty much anything on the menu smothered in the pork green chile, or go veggie with the (almost) equally delicious meat-free version.
El Taco de Mexico
The green chile at El Taco de Mexico is essentially a hybrid of the Colorado and New Mexico styles: a garlicky, vibrant green, tomato-less puree studded with pork fat. Up the pepper ante by getting it on the chile relleno burrito, or try the customer-favorite steak tacos.
With multiple locations across the Denver metro, you’re never too far from a Santiago’s. And that’s a good thing, because this Mexican restaurant is a local favorite, especially when it comes to Colorado-style green chile! Available in mild, hot and half and half (medium), Santiago’s savory sauce includes both green chiles and jalapeno peppers, tomato puree and pork. The breakfast burritos get top billing, but it’s just as delicious at lunch and dinner.
Brewery Bar II
Brewery Bar’s tagline is “Some Like It Hot,” and they aren’t kidding! You can order the Mexican restaurant’s pork green chili mild or mouth-searingly hot. Get it slathered on any of the combos and wash it all down with a 24-ounce “tiny” beer.
The hearty pork neck green chile stew — made with green chiles, tomatoes, and pork neck — will warm your bones on even the coldest winter day. You can (and should) also get the green chile over fries.
Tamales by La Casita
Bright green and peppery with notes of garlic and tender pieces of pork, the green chile at Tamales by La Casita is the perfect pool for — what else? — a duo of fresh, handmade tamales.
Head to North Country for a Baja, California-inspired twist on the traditional green sauce. Their mild green chili is made with roasted hatch green chilies, pork and masa (corn flour that is cooked in water with slaked lime and used to make tortillas, tamales and other Latin American dishes). Enjoy it on its own or on a breakfast burrito or huevos rancheros.
La Loma pictured above.